So I may have been writing too much lately about the state of the classic gaming market. But can you blame me? Over the course of this year, Playstation 3 prices have gone through the roof, we’ve seen Playstation 2 game prices explode, with Wii U and PS Vita games on the verge of a bubble. Besides, if y’all keep reading this stuff, I’ll keep writing it.
Predictably enough, it looks like Nintendo 64 game prices are also on the rise. Except that the N64 is unique in this console generation for a few reasons that are deeply affecting game prices. For starters, the consoles and controllers themselves have quite a few highly sought-after variant colors. Cartridge games are inherently more expensive than discs and the paper boxes got smooshed or thrown away way more often than disc cases, contributing to today’s ridiculously expensive market rates.
If you aren’t collecting N64 already, but have been thinking about it, you should probably get started yesterday. Prices on a lot of common titles are still fairly low, but uncommon games and the console itself are gaining fast. This article will go over pricing on all of those things in turn.
First, let’s answer the big question:
Why are N64 Games So Expensive?
Because the N64 uses cartridge games, which are way more expensive to produce than discs, fewer were made. So supply for N64 games is comparatively low. But demand for these games is as high as ever. The result is a disproportionate spike in N64 games prices.
Compared to their contemporaries, N64 games are more expensive for naked cartridges. But an even bigger price change impact is on the cardboard boxes the games came in. While the disc-based games of the time came with sturdy and slim plastic jewel cases, N64 boxes were bulky and more prone to getting crushed or torn. So complete-in-box N64 games are even harder to come by, driving prices higher.
While demand rose for all classic games during the pandemic, N64 is definitely taking a bigger hit. And while it was pretty natural to assume the pandemic caused the spike and prices will slide back down when people get back to school and work and generally start venturing out again… that doesn’t seem to be the case!
It’s hard to say for sure with COVID still impacting our daily lives, but a huge number of us have been forced to return to some version of our regular lives and, rather than taking a dip, games prices have soared even higher!
The more recent trend of auctioning Wata-graded games at money-laundering prices is completely destroying the hobby for a lot of people. The shady business happening between Wata and Heritage Auctions amounts to a full-blown conspiracy, with retro game collecting becoming more of a hobby for investors than gamers.
Look at this this Wata-graded Zelda: Ocarina of Time just sitting on eBay with a massively inflated price. It will likely sit there for months. The final act of this charade comes when the seller the actually “buys” it under a different account, further raising the average price of this title.
Do me a favor. Go see if Ocarina is still sitting there and if it is, drop a comment.
This “Wata-gate” conspiracy has hit N64 especially hard, given that a 1.5 million dollar copy of Mario 64 was one of the big headlines this year and sparked a disgusting and contagious rash of overzealous eBay sellers trying to gouge gamers. It’s infuriating, but you should probably know about it if you don’t already. Of course I wrote an article about it. Go read it real quick and come back…
With conspiracies, nostalgia, a pandemic, and a generation of gamers finally able to afford all the games their parents wouldn’t buy them… it’s no wonder N64 games are so damn expensive in 2021.
I keep telling myself “It’s still temporary! Prices will go back down by 2022!” But the longer the price-hike continues, the more convinced I am that this is just how prices are going to be from now on.
Think about it. Gamers have rediscovered their favorite games from the 90s and have started collecting them. We collectors already know how addictive that can be. And how contagious. At this point, the N64 collection craze isn’t being fueled by quarantined millennials. It’s fueled by a whole new generation of collectors.
So yeah, maybe this pricing bubble will burst after the pandemic, but I don’t think it’ll ever come back down to where prices were before COVID. And they’re much more likely to keep rising. Here’s a screenshot from pricecharting.com if you want to see for yourself.
N64 Game Prices: Good Bad News
The pricing roller coaster is bad news and good news.
For the hobby itself—that is to say, the hobby of collecting retro games—higher prices indicate high demand and a wide interest in collecting. That’s good for a few reasons. There are more preservationists out there protecting these vulnerable classics and keeping them intact for future generations.
The heightened awareness of the hobby means new blood. Of course we want new collectors to join in and perpetuate the hobby. But if you thought you still had time to shore up your N64 collection and get those few last pieces to make it a little closer to complete, you might be wrong.
As more and more gamers join the ranks of hobby collectors, any games you still need for your shelf are going to become harder and harder to obtain. So bad news for your wallet.
How much does a Nintendo 64 Cost in 2021?
For a standard smoke-black system with a single controller and cables, expect to pay around $100. The same console, complete-in-box with cardboard and styrofoam will be difficult to find for under $200 and may run well over $250. If you’re looking for a rarer color variant, expect to pay a lot more. The Jungle Green console with a controller is about $160 naked and may cost many hundreds of dollars if you can find one in the box.
It is definitely worth adding that if you want the expansion pak–which is necessary to play many of the N64’s later titles–you’re going to have to cough up at least another $65. And that price may still rise. To me, that’s the craziest part. But judging by the eBay listings, my guess is that they are only expensive because stupid scalpers have bought them all and are holding them ransom.
As with any market, prices move up and down constantly and it can be hard to keep up with. With collectibles specifically, the condition of items are a huge factor in their value, so you’ll get a wide range of pricing even for the same item.
The best way to see what’s happening with the market is to just check eBay for current pricing. I’ve got live links throughout this article so you can quickly reference prices, then quickly zap back to this article and keep reading.
FYI, these are affiliate links, so if you click them and then purchase something you’ll be helping me keep this blog alive. Thanks and happy hunting!
Current pricing on eBay
The Best Cheap N64 Games
All classic consoles are experiencing pricing madness, but every console still has its cheap and common games that seem immune to price fluctuations. The N64 is no exception. If you don’t already have these affordable titles, you can scoop them up any time. That means you can get the rarer games with bigger price fluctuations first (before they get even more expensive), then come back for these common games.
Of course, “cheap” can mean different things to different people. For the sake of clarity and consistency, I’ll limit this list to games that are around $20 or less. As usual, check eBay for current pricing.
Some would argue that 007: Goldeneye is superior. But that’s just nostalgia talking. Like Goldeneye, Perfect Dark was developed by Rare, who were at their peak during the 64-bit era. Perfect Dark offers a similar experience to Goldeneye, except with improved graphics and a brand new IP that wasn’t limited by a movie tie-in.
The weapons and characters are fun, but like every FPS from this period the control scheme can be difficult to re-learn. Honestly, I’m not sure how we ever put up with stiff console controls with FPS games.
Regardless, Perfect Dark is a good time, especially for its price tag. Definitely check it out.
I loved this game when it came out, and I’m pretty excited for the Nintendo Switch version that’s happening. If you’re not familiar with Pokemon Snap, it’s basically a rail shooter through a drive-thru Pokemon refuge. Instead of blasting their precious little heads off, you’re equipped with a camera and challenged with getting great shots of Pokemon in their natural habitat. It’s surprisingly challenging and really takes a relaxed approach to the genre.
This one may be right on the cusp of what’s “cheap” and what’s “un-cheap.” But generally the price is low, and totally worth it if you’re looking for a relaxing and unique addition to your N64 collection.
Star Wars – Shadows of the Empire
I remember being absolutely floored by this game when it came out. The action switches between third-person exploration and aerial combat, beginning with the fierce battle on Hoth against the Empire’s AT-AT walkers!
While not considered canon, this game fits very well into the classic Star Wars mythos, from a pristine age even before Jar Jar Binks existed.
While the 64-bit era is known for wonky controls and tricky cameras, third-person adventures and flight simulation were both handled quite well by the N64. So in that department, Shadows of the Empire is still quite enjoyable today. And it remains one of the cheaper games for that system. So go get it!
Wave Race 64
Designed by Shigeru Miyamoto himself, Wave Race 64 is a dirt-cheap alternative to Mario Kart and other, more popular racing games.
If you haven’t heard of Wave Race 64, you’re in for a treat. Hailed by many fans of one of the greatest racing games of its generation, and boasting some of the best visual effects of the console, it is very well loved. Metacritic gives Wave Race 64 a score of 92.
Why is it so cheap, then?
A few reasons spring to mind immediately. For one thing, racing games just tend to be less popular and less coveted than adventure titles. And among racers, Wave Race was eclipsed by other first-party titles like F-Zero X and the celebrated Mario Kart 64. Even Star Wars Episode 1 Racer had a higher profile at the time. (And is another very entertaining-yet-cheap N64 game. See it on eBay for pricing.)
Despite the low price and overlooked status, don’t sell Wave Race 64 short. It offers a great bang for your buck.
Alright, this one might be divisive. I’ll explain: Because Nintendo made the 64 a chore for programmers, and had high demands of their partners, Square Soft decided to take their business over to Sony. So the N64 lost their best RPG producer. As a result, Quest 64 was one of the very few RPGs that came out for the N64. It takes the GG prize for Most Generic RPG of all time. It’s so vanilla it makes ice cream jealous. Or something like that.
But despite its abject forgetability, it has such a comforting familiarity to it that I found it to be a relaxing and cathartic game. And yes, it is very much a bargain-bin game. Might as well check it out.
WCW vs NWO World Tour
Author’s Note: I’ve never played this. I’ve hardly played any wrestling games. I’m just not a fan. However, wrestling fans agree that the N64 had some of the best entries in the genre and WCW vs NWO World Tour is one of the cheapest of the bestest. Allegedly.
I won’t try to fill paragraphs for this title because I truly know nothing about it, or about wrestling. But my little Twitter family know the topic well, and vouch for this title so… I guess… Give it a try? If you’re into that kind of thing, I mean… It is certainly cheap.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
One of my absolute favorite N64 games is Rogue Squadron!
The N64’s 3D graphics and it’s “revolutionary” controller concept both lent themselves very well to flight simulation. Rogue Squadron takes full advantage of both, with excellent controls, great graphics, varied level design, top-notch voice acting, and a perfect fit right into the Star Wars lore. It’s just a really great game that somehow has resisted the price increases that have plagued so many other great N64 games.
If you don’t have it, if you haven’t played it, you are missing out big time! Do yourself a favor and go find Rogue Squadron on eBay.
More Expensive N64 Games
Welcome to the next level. Oh wait, that was… you know what, never mind.
You say you’ve got money to burn? Well, welcome to the big leagues. I’ll try to avoid putting the really expensive games on here, but know that there are quite a few. Like Clay Fighters Sculptor’s Cut (the real one, not the big fat reproduction copy at the top of this page) or the absurdly rare Super Bowling.
No no, none of that. We’ll be focusing on great and highly-playable games that just don’t want to cooperate with your wallet. Let’s start with one of the all-time greats.
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
I had this and lost this. Honestly, I think I gave it away. And now I’m filled with regret.
While this is not one of those ridiculously expensive, super-rare games, it is not cheap. You’ll have to check eBay for current pricing, but as I write this the price for a loose copy is around $80. Too much for my wallet.
This is a tactics-based RPG like many others, but the mere fact of its being an N64 title makes it valuable. As we mentioned earlier, there just aren’t many RPGs for the system. And unlike Quest 64, this is actually a very deep and nuanced game, with excellent graphics and an epic storyline.
If you’ve got the cash, go find yourself a copy on eBay.
Watch out for counterfeit copies of this one. Unless of course you want a fake. But if you’re a collector that seems silly. Just get the real thing.
Once again, RPGs are a rarity on this console. And Paper Mario, besides being a classic first-party Super Mario game, is a really fun RPG.
In the tradition of Twisted Metal, Vigilante 8 pits quirky armored vehicles against each other on a variety of combat race courses.
Twisted Metal it is not. But if you’re looking for more mature combat racing on the N64, Vigilante 8 will definitely scratch that itch.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
I don’t feel I need to explain myself here. Be warned though, that the first 6 eBay listings I saw were for brand-new counterfeit cartridges. Make sure the listing says they are “Used” and anything under $20 is probably fake.
That said, Ocarina isn’t terribly expensive and is one of the best games for the N64. Maybe we have the glut of fake cartridges to thank for keeping prices so low?
This game is truly unique on the Nintendo 64. It is one of, if not the, only 2D platformer for the system. If you know of any others, do let me know. But otherwise, you’re looking at one of the last throwbacks to the 2D era of gaming in a cute anime game that plays a bit like Donkey Kong Country and actually does utilize the full capabilities of the N64’s graphic range.
This title stands out to me because so many of my favorite franchises from previous generations did not take kindly to the leap into 3D gaming. Mega Man 64 and Castlevania 64, while they do enjoy a cult status today, did not do it for me back then. I was so discouraged by the growing pains of early 3D gaming that I gave up on consoles for an entire gaming generation, preferring the better 3D graphics and controls of PC gaming.
If you enjoy quirky platformers, give Mischief Makers a shot.
Super Smash Bros
The original master right here.
While it lacks the over-the-top content load the current edition boasts, Super Smash Bros started the whole craze, and remains one of the best justifications for the four controller ports on the N64.
In my opinion, this game is currently very underpriced. This may be partly thanks to the absurd number of counterfeit reproduction carts available. And it might partly be because there have been so many editions of this game that the original seems unnecessary. But if you’re going to be a N64 collector, you might as well grab this underpriced classic.
Mario Party 3
Nintendo did their best to capitalize on gamers’ preference for multiplayer games. And just like Super Smash Bros, the Mario Party series makes great use of the N64’s quadruple controller ports.
The mini games are great fun for literally the entire family. Or your one friend and your dog and your cat. But be warned! Some of the mini games are known to destroy analog sticks. So play with care. Be gentle, okay?